Thursday, June 30, 2011

8 In Stores This Week: Contest Winners!

Here comes our winner's parade!!!

RivaBelle, Tami Veldura, and Katy!!!

Carol Riggs!!!

Britta!!!

Jessy!!!

Nicole Zoltack!!!

Lori M. Lee and Pam Harris!!!

Heather McCorkle!!!

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books)!!!

Signed bookmarks for LUMINOUS...
Samjam G, Maggie Desmond-O'Brien, Kayeleen Hamblin, Teresa aka Journaling Woman, and Mrs. Heise !!!

Thanks again to the fabulous authors and publishing houses for making these giveaways possible!

Happy reading,
The Ladies of ACP

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

9 WOW Wednesday: Ara Burkland


Today's WOW post is by one of the very first people I ever met at a writer's conference, the incomparable Ara Burklund, whose manuscript blew me away the moment she read it aloud.  You'll be blown away by her story, too. I promise. Read on, and visit her at her blog for more.

Confessions of a Two-Timer

By Ara Burklund

I have to be honest. When Martina first asked me to do a WOW Wednesday post, I hesitated. I mean, I love reading other people's WOW Wednesday tales. I can't get enough of the what-was-your-journey-as-a-writer questions in the ACP author interviews. But me? Sure, I recently hooked up with an agent I'm head over heels for, whose judgment I absolutely trust, and I have a manuscript out on submission, but I don't know if anyone's going to like it. Anything could happen.

Everyone could reject it, or maybe more than one editor will want it, and they'll have a bidding war. Another favorite fantasy is that someone will make my agent a preemptive offer. On the flip side, though, I realize I still might need to dodge a few very likely hurdles: editorial board meeting approval, uncontracted revisions, similar titles already on publishers' lists.

Anyway, all my disclaimers about the status of my now-ten-year-old writing career said, here's my advice to the writing world at large (including myself!): Don't give up!!! That agent I'm madly in love with? She's not my first. Kind of like the high school boyfriend I knew deep in my heart--no matter how much I wanted to deny it at the time--just wasn't right for me (even though he's a great person), my first agent and I amicably parted ways. And yes, breaking up was hard to do. Afterward, it took me awhile to find the right person again.

Not because I was gun-shy, but because I'd become more particular about the type of agent I wanted. Kind of like my friends in their late thirties who were dating, I now had a lot of dealbreakers on my list, and I'd been around the block enough times, compromise was no longer an option. As a result, it took me two years to find the right person. Now that she's in my corner, though, I'm happy I waited.

As far as my lifelong journey as a writer goes, I'm not going to be all trite and tell you how I've been writing flash fiction since I was a toddler, penning novels since the tender age of nine. No. More like I was that girl who wrote angry diatribes in her journal during junior high, then lamented in it over why [insert name of latest hot guy I wanted to nail] didn't like me in high school. Stories--if there were any--were written on whim or assignment, all extremely short. In college, I finally started sketching a few character profiles I hoped would turn into a full-length manuscript. But then I made a horrible mistake: I showed them to someone I loved (still love, believe it or not!), asking for his opinion. His response? He hated them. Said I didn't have any talent as a writer. Said no one would ever want to read anything so depressing. And even though he didn't regularly read fiction, I trusted his opinion. So I stopped writing. For ten years.

At the age of thirty, I had somewhat of a midlife crisis, probably springing from the fact that two friends of mine had published novels. Because somewhere down in a neglected corner of my soul, I knew I wanted to write, but I'd given up prematurely. So I started all over again, this time, writing a full manuscript in six weeks. I finally had the discipline to stick to a project and the self-confidence not to care whether the people close to me thought I was wasting my time. It was my time, after all, and I deserved to spend it doing something I enjoyed. Something that brought me fulfillment. Something that stimulated my brain.

I wish I could say that first manuscript was a big hit. Sure, a few people said they read it in a single night, but that was probably because it was like a freeway full of unending, gruesome, multicar pileups, impossible not to keep staring at. After the rejections starting rolling in on that one (over one hundred of them--I'd learned to be persistent), I finally picked up a few writing books. And promptly found out all the stuff I'd been doing wrong. Oops! So I wrote another manuscript. Structurally more sound, also a one-night read for some of my beta-readers, I immediately queried agents with it. As usual, I got a lot of requests (in hindsight, I realize I wrote a better query letter than a manuscript at the time). Again, though, the rejections started rolling in, one after another. But then I got a two-page, single-spaced rejection from a prominent agent (you'd know her--she's got a few NYT bestselling authors on her list) that I'll always treasure. In it, she told me the truth: the manuscript I'd written was well-crafted, but the way the subject matter was set up (with the main character first a teenager, then in part II an adult) would never fly in the marketplace. She told me I'd essentially plotted two separate manuscripts, praising my teen voice and suggesting I develop that side of the story first. So I did.

Again, I wish I could say I hit it big with those two resulting manuscripts, but I didn't. The teen part of the story did attract some agent attention. In fact, another well-known agent (think of at least two YA authors who are worldwide phenomena and share the same agent), requested an exclusive on that manuscript. First s/he requested a partial, then a full. And then s/he held onto it, exclusively, for almost A YEAR!!! You can imagine my frustration when I *finally* received my rejection, not to the full s/he'd requested, but to the original partial! Talk about disorganized!!! Anyway, lesson learned: big names aren't superhuman. They have their flaws, just like everyone else, so it's better not to put them on such a pedestal.

With manuscript number five, I finally got an offer of representation.

Two offers, actually. Naturally, I didn't choose the agent whose career was about to blow up, with three authors becoming bestsellers within a matter of months. I chose the agent with the more steady track record. Ultimately, when s/he didn't wind up selling my manuscript, I took to mentally beating myself up over not choosing the other agent. But you know what? Years later, I realize something: it wouldn't have worked out with the agent not chosen, either. I wasn't ready as a writer. No matter how much guidance I might have received, I still had way too much to learn about craft. In fact, even now, I've learned that I'll never stop learning from the masters. With this new manuscript out there, I just hope I'm finally ready. No matter what happens, though, one thing I know: I'll keep writing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

29 In Stores This Week (with Interviews & Giveaways) Part 2

Are you prepared for another handful of tantilizing reads? We've got them just for you. Read on for author interviews, as well. And don't forget to enter our giveaway all the way down at the bottom. Did you miss yesterday? You'll want to go back and see what else is in stores this week and enter our giveaway for a second time!

This Week's Interviews

Torn by Erika O'Rourke
  • From Goodreads: Everyone has secrets. Even best friends. Mo Fitzgerald knows about secrets. But when she witnesses her best friend’s murder, she discovers Verity was hiding things she never could have guessed. To find the answers she needs and the vengeance she craves, Mo—quiet, ordinary, unmagical Mo—will have to enter a world of raw magic and shifting alliances. And she’ll have to choose between two very different, equally dangerous guys—protective, duty-bound Colin and brash, mysterious Luc. One wants to save her, one wants to claim her. Which would you choose?
How long did you work on this book?
From first sentence to polished final draft took me about three years. In the middle of that, however, I took a year off while pregnant with my youngest daughter. Nothing kills inspiration like 24-hour morning sickness and the exhaustion that accompanies a newborn.

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
Once I started querying in earnest, it was a pretty short turnaround. I don’t know the exact number of rejections, but probably around fifteen. But the thing to keep in mind is that I didn’t follow the traditional “query-agent-sub-offer” route to publication. I was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Contest, and one of my final-round judges asked to see the full manuscript. Six weeks later, she called with an offer of publication. It put me in the delightful position of emailing agents and saying, “I have an offer of publication on the table. Would you like to see the manuscript?” It’s a vastly more pleasant way to go about the querying/publishing process, but also fairly uncommon.

After my agent negotiated the deal -- as launch author for Kensington’s new K Teen line -- things sped up even more, as my pub date was moved up nine months. My first book, Torn, will debut at the RWA National Convention in New York, almost exactly a year since I received “the call” from my editor. So the process has been very, very fast. In fact, I still have trouble believing it, sometimes.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Work on your craft. I firmly believe good authors never stop learning, never stop honing their skills, never become complacent. There’s always something that can be improved: take classes, read books about writing, allow people you trust to critique your work. Agents and editors aren’t kidding when they say good writing trumps everything else, and the only way to get to that level of skill is to work at it.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
How much behind-the-scenes work goes on! It’s not just my work, either but the effort that my agent and editor and their respective teams have put into this project. It’s a far more massive undertaking than I realized, and a very collaborative one. My name goes on the cover, but the credit really belongs to a large group of people who have been incredibly generous with their time and energy.

Also, I still get queasy every time I have to autograph one of my own books. I should probably work on that, huh?

From Willa, With Love by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
  • From Goodreads: It's a surprising, sparkling summer for Willa! It's August on Cape Cod and Willa has a lot to look forward to. Soon, JFK will return home from baseball camp, and Willa has an idea for an exciting new project that will challenge her to dream big! But life throws Willa some unexpected twists and turns: Ruby has bad news, a beloved friend leaves, a dear friend returns, her brother Will has something he does't want to talk about, and of course, there's a wedding to plan! There's also a cute boy who likes Willa . . . a lot, and Willa thinks she might like him too. It's a summer full of romance and surprises!
How long did you work on this book?
I wrote the first draft of From Willa, With Love, in twelve days, February 8-19, 2010. My process as a writer is to show up on the page when I'm passionately excited to begin writing -- firefly ideas spark, spark, sparking -- I've got my main character and I know what she/he wants more than anything in the world -- and I'm off in a flurry. It's sort of like being pregnant and the due date is drawing near and inside you're getting ready with ideas/thoughts/feelings and then, NOW, that baby's ready to come. That's when I know it's time to hunker in and write. I go in to "cave mode" and block out as much of the world as possible so that I can become completely absorbed in the story.

Also, as I've been writing about Willa Havisham since 2003 (the first "Willa book," The Wedding Planner's Daughter, debuted in 2005; From Willa, With Love, is the now the 6th book in the ongoing story of her life), Willa is constantly in my mind and heart. I could write her forever. She's the teenage daughter I never had (I am the lucky mother of three sons, Chris, 21, Connor, 18, and Dylan, 16 :)).

When I start a new Willa book, I read the last one in the series, feel where she is right now, what's on her mind, what's in her heart, and when she starts talking, I start writing.

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
I broke into this field in 2002 with a contract from Simon & Schuster for a picture book, How Prudence Proovit Proved the Truth about Fairy Tales. This after nearly two years of working it, working it, working it, writing loads of stories, submitting constantly, receiving 179 rejections. This was my training time. That first book came out Summer 2004. In this, the summer of 2012, my 15th book debuts. 15 books in 7 years, it's been a baptism by fire, for sure, and I've learned a tremendous amount.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Best advice? Write when the fireflies spark inside you -- that is, write when you are excited about a new idea -- there's great energy in those moments. Stop, drop, and write wherever you are. Write what you are hearing in your head, as fast as you can, without worrying or editing or second-guessing. Catch those firefly ideas on paper quickly. If you wait, those sparks might fly away, just like fireflies.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
What has surprised me most? Wow... good question....hmmmm.....how generous and loving and supportive my fans are...their letters and emails humble me and bring me to tears and motivate me to write the next book, the best book of which I am capable, because they deserve no less than that. And....still, for me, the best part about all of this is the joy I find in writing. I am happiest when I am writing.

Pretty Bad Things by C.J. Skuse
  • From Goodreads: Paisley and Beau are boldface names again. Last time, paparazzi called them the "Wonder Twins," two kids found alone but alive in the woods of exotic New Jersey. Three days after their mom's death -- and before their dad's criminal misdeeds. Flash-forward to now: Their so-called lives? Suck out loud: Hating on their cougarized, Botoxic grandma, they're totally clueless about the location of ex-con Daddy. Till they discover a stash of old letters. That's when they decide to jack the Pontiac and hit the road. Holding up donut shops in Sin City might seem extreme, but if they can just get their pretty bad faces back on TV -- or TMZ -- they might wrap up their whole gaga saga with an Oprah-worthy reunion already!
How long did you work on this book?
Pretty Bad Things is the result of conjoining two short stories I wrote during a BA in Creative Writing. One of the short stories was about six-year-old twins who ran away from home (ala Hansel and Gretel) and the other was about a teenage Bonnie and Clyde caught up in a motel room shoot out. Neither story had a definitive beginning nor ending, so for my MA in Writing for Young People, I put the two together so that one grew up to be the other. Around eighteen months after the original kernel of an idea, I had a finished manuscript, or at least, one I was happy for the world to see.

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
I started writing my first novel when I was around sixteen/seventeen and for about eight years I was sending it back and forth to agents, because I was told you had to have an agent to get anywhere. Fifty agent rejections later, I realised that perhaps it wasn’t just about finding the right agent that would get me published, it was about improving my writing. It was then a case of Googling degree courses in Writing for Children and that took me to Bath Spa University where I did my BA and MA to hone my skills. All in all, my journey to publication has been about a decade, give or take.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Personally, I think if you have a basic talent but lack the skill to see the problems in your own work, I would seriously consider investing in a reputable degree course in creative writing. I wouldn’t bean author without doing my BA and MA, I can say that with some certainty. The feedback I received and the contacts I made on those courses were worth their weight in gold and made me a much better writer than I thought I could ever be. I really think if anyone is serious about wanting to become a published author but just can’t catch a break, they should consider a course like an MA in Creative Writing. If they are willing to listen to the criticism and put in100% effort, there is a very real chance they will get results.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
The biggest surprise for me has been learning that even if you write the best book you can possibly write, there is a probability that it will get swallowed in the already existing sea of other books out there. It’s kind of depressing! I’ve made a rod for my own back really because I probably should be working on some Wimpy Kid or Hunger Games novel right now in order to catch the wave of success these series are having, but I’m not that good a writer - not even in the same league as Suzanne Collins! At the moment it feels like my two tiny books are floating around on this vast ocean of literary giants and award winners and popular titles and I’m always amazed when anyone I don’t know emails or tweets me to say they’ve found one of them and read or even enjoyed it. Even if they’ve hated it, I’m just glad it’s reached them somehow! Plus I’ve learned that there are only so many subjects I’m interested in writing about. I like quite shocking topics and I always strive to be as original as possible or else I get very bored very quickly. I’ve also discovered this with reading too. Frustratingly and probably quite arrogantly too, there are very few books that hold my interest for long!

The Ascension: A Super Human Clash by Michael Carroll
  • From Goodreads: They'd done it. Not only had Roz, Abby, Lance, and Thunder survived their first battle with a super villain, they'd defeated him. Krodin was dead, and they had saved the world. Now everything could go back to normal-good old, boring normal. School. Parents.  Friends. But three weeks later, the world suddenly changes. The United States is under martial law, the people are little more than drones, and where Central Park should be there now stands a massive glass-and-steel building, home to the all-powerful Chancellor. In Michael Carroll's follow-up to the acclaimed Super Human, the world has been remade in the Chancellor's image, and it's about to get much much worse. Only this young band of heroes has a chance of stopping him, but can they return the world to what it was, or will they be stranded in this alternate world forever?
How long did you work on this book?
Hmm... let's see... The Ascension is part of the Quantum Prophecy series - it's the fifth novel out of a projected eight - so there are elements of the plot that I began developing back in early 2002, such a long time ago now that I actually had *hair* when I started. Not much, but it was there. You know that sort of forehead-island of hair that balding men get and they do their best to sweep it back in such a way that they like to believe fools others into thinking that they've still got a full head of hair? Well, I had one of those. I must stress that it was *not* a comb-over - that's just undignified - but it was definitely a "yep, he's going bald" situation. And it wasn't that I was in denial about it, I was just making the best of what little I had. I think there's an important lesson in there for everyone. I'm not sure what the lesson *is*, but it's definitely important.

But I digress... The majority of the work on The Ascension began in early 2009, and I wrote the first draft in September of that year. It follows on directly from its predecessor, Super Human, which is the fourth book in the series. Or, from some points of view, the first book... Super Human is a prequel to the first three book, and so is The Ascension, but as it's set *after* Super Human, then it's not *quite* as prequelly. Is "prequelly" a real word? No? Well, it is now - I've invented it. Any future use of the word "prequelly" must at all times be accompanied by a copyright notice, or face the wrath of my lawyers, the well-respected firm of Suem and Bedammed. (That lame joke is also copyright Michael Carroll... Unauthorised users of said joke will face the wrath of my lawyers, the well-respected... Hang on, I think I'm stuck in a loop here!)

I seem to have digressed once more... What was the question again? Oh, right. How long I worked on this book... The first draft came together very quickly, as most first drafts tend to do when the author takes the time beforehand to plot the book in detail, then it went through two major revisions. The first revision was entirely at my own request, before my editor even saw the book: when I'm done with a first draft I set the book aside for a few days and then go through it marking everything that doesn't work, or could be done better. Once the first revision was done, my editor had some notes on tightening up the pacing and clarifying certain plot elements.

Even though I hate it when people tell me that the book isn't perfect, I do my best to keep in mind the simple truth about editing: no writer is good enough to constantly produce work that won't benefit from someone else's input. My editor at Penguin - Kiffin Steurer - is a great supporter of the series, but he's not shy about telling me when something doesn't work (he's right more often than not, but don't let on).

After the final draft, there was the usual copy-editing stage and so forth. In all, the book took about nine months. Kind of... With a multiple-book series such as this, there's always a lot of advanced plotting so who knows how much time each individual book takes? I mean, I've already got the plots for the seventh and eighth books about 70% done (and I've finished the sixth book, due out in summer 2012).

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
No rejections for this particular book, thankfully. But the series itself took a long time to get up and running... Back in December 2002 I sent the first book to a Big Name Publisher in the UK. Heard nothing back after three months, so I wrote a follow-up letter. Then I sent another letter as a sort of rescue-party to track down the first letter and see what had happened to it. Eventually, after about six months, I received a reply saying that the book had indeed arrived, and someone would be getting back to me very soon. So I waited. And waited. And eventually - following a couple more letters that I believed were going to the publisher but I quickly began to suspect had just run away from home - I gave up.

I figured it was time to find an agent. This proved to be rather trickier than I'd expected... There are some agencies here in Ireland (the country in which I live!), but none of them were interested in taking me on, even though I'd already published a whole bunch of other books by then! So I looked across the water to the UK, and, after being rejected or ignored by twenty-two different agencies (the few who even bothered to return my calls all wanted me to have a deal in place with a publisher before they'd take me on, and weren't impressed when I asked them "Well, in that case why would I need you?"), I found one! Woo-hoo! My agent loved the book, and within days had arranged a meeting with Another Big Name publisher. They pretty much signed me on the spot, which was something of a relief as I thought I might have to fall back on my other career as an elephant-towel salesman (there's not a lot of call for the towelling of elephants here in Ireland, especially not since the Great Irish Elephant Migration of 1984, but of course you don't need *me* to tell you all about that - there's hardly a day goes by when there's not a documentary about it on the History Channel).

The most satisfying twist to the story came a few days later... Yes, *fourteen months* after I submitted my manuscript, a letter arrived from the first Big Name Publisher: "Dear author whose name we can't be bothered to learn, Thank you for sending us your book. It does not suit our needs. Get stuffed. Yours, Ineffective Low-Ranking Minion Masquerading as Someone in The Arts, Big Name Publisher, London."

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
1. Never stop writing. The only time one fails as a writer is when one quits. So don't stop.

2. Always plan your work in advance. If you plan properly, you're much less likely to get stuck.

3. Finish what you start. Stuck? Well, it's your own fault – either you didn't plan properly, or you deviated from the plan. Get over it and go back to rule #2.

4. Don't talk about your book before it's finished. If you're talking about it, you're not writing. Plus - and this is very important – no one cares about what you're *going* to do, only what you *have* done.

5. Read. And don't be a snob about it - read everything. Don't like a particular genre? Well, read it anyway. You'll learn more from reading books you're not that interested in than from reading your favourites over and over.

6. Grow a thick skin, because you'll need it to cope with rejections. Rejections aren't nice, but, hey, if you received a rejection that means you're automatically way ahead of most writers, because you actually followed rule #3. A thick skin will also help when the reviews come along... Yes, it stings when someone gives your book a nasty review. But it won't kill you - it's just one person's opinion. Remember: reviewers are wrong when they don't like your book, and right when they do like it. Simple as that.

7. Don't write a vampire romance novel. Really. It's been done. I don't care *how* much heart-rending angst you put into it, that odds are that your idea is *not* sufficiently different to the bazillion other vampire romance novels out there to make it stand out. Hmm... And if this thought upsets you, have a look at rule #6, then go back to rule #1.


What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
Well, I've been in this business a long time now... Eighteen years since my first novel was published, and twelve years since I went full-time, so it was all so long ago now that I can barely remember it. I know I had hair at the time... Wait, we've already been down that road, haven't we?

One thing that was surprising was that I did not become instantly wealthy and famous. I'd led myself to believe that as soon as the book hit the shelves I'd be able to retire on the vast royalties. Turned out that it's not so simple... Y'see, folks, we hear so much about the Harry Potter and Twilight books that it's easy to forget that most writers are *not* millionaires. The fact is, most writers earn less than the minimum wage.

Look at it this way: imagine there's a great big pot of "writing money" that every year is divided up between all the world's writers. 99% of that money goes to 1% of the writers. The rest the money goes to the other 99% of the writers (these figures are for illustrative purposes only, because I made them up - the actual figures are probably way off, like 99.9% of the money going to 0.1% of the writers).

It's not all about the money - not by a long way - but we all need money to live, so why do we do this? Why do we spend so much of our lives making up stories? The answer is simple: "Because we love it. I may never become rich or famous, but I don't care (though given the choice I'd choose the former!). There are books out there with my name on them, and that's cool but it's not nearly as important as the fact that there are stories out there written by me that people are reading and - hopefully - enjoying.

Another mildly-surprising thing was discovering that it wasn't that big a deal to most people. Sure, my friends and family were all very pleased for me when the first book was published, but they got over it a lot sooner than I did! I had imagined - well, hoped - that becoming a published writer would somehow make me much more interesting and important than I had been, but that didn't happen then and hasn't happened yet!

There are some people whose attitude is, "So he wrote a book. Big deal. I could do that. It's only words on a page - how hard can that be?" Annoyingly, in many ways they're right. In cosmic terms, writing a book isn't a major achievement. We're not saving lives or inventing things that make life easier for others, we're telling stories. Fiction. We make up stuff that's not true.

But on a *personal* level... Finishing a book is a tremendously satisfying achievement, equaled only by seeing that book in a book-store for the first time. It's not world-changing, but it's far from trivial. Using only our imaginations as building materials and our story-telling skills as tools, we are able to craft whole new universes that can transport our readers to anywhere we like. We can make them laugh and cry, cheer the heroes and jeer the villains. We can - for a brief time - help them to set aside the real world and all its economic strife, rampant intolerance, endless warfare and cold drizzly rain, and, at the end, hopefully leave them feeling a little better about everything.

The best a writer can hope for is that the reader will get to the end of the book, close it, and think, "Ooh, that was fun! Now, what's for lunch?" For any writer that should be more than enough to make the job worthwhile!

Additional Releases
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
  • From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills by Joanna Pearson
  • From Goodreads: For anyone who's ever survived a rite of passage or performed a mating dance at Prom . . .The Japanese hold a Mogi ceremony for young women coming of age. Latina teenagers get quinceaneras. And Janice Wills of Melva, NC ... has to compete in the Miss Livermush pageant. Janice loves anthropology--the study of human cultures--and her observations help her identify useful rules in the chaotic world of high school. For instance: Dancing is an effective mating ritual--but only if you're good at it; Hot Theatre Guys will never speak to Unremarkable Smart Girls like Janice and her best friend, Margo; and a Beautiful Rich Girl will always win Melva's annual Miss Livermush pageant. But when a Hot Theatre Guy named Jimmy Denton takes an interest in Janice, all her scientific certainties explode. For the first time, she has to be part of the culture that she's always observed; and all the charts in the world can't prove how tough--and how sweet--real participation and a real romance can be.
Giveaways

You can get your hands on some of the great books we've featured here today. Fill out the form below and leave a comment on this post. You'll be enetered to win a copy of FORBIDDEN, THE ASCENCION: A SUPER HUMAN CLASH, THE RITES AND WRONGS OF JANICE WILLIS, and one of two copies of FROM WILLA, WITH LOVE. Erica O'Rourke is offering a copy of TORN, along with a bookmark and a deck of cards that link to a secret scene! Our contest is open to US residents and winners will be announced Thursday!

Happy reading!
The Ladies of ACP

Monday, June 27, 2011

52 In Stores This Week (with Interviews & Giveaways) Part 1

Has your to-be-read pile toppled over yet? Caution: this week may cause falling books! Read on for author interviews, fabulous new books, and be sure and enter our giveaway all the way down at the bottom. Stop by tomorrow to enter again when we introduce another round of books hitting shelves this week!

This Week's Interviews

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder
  • From Goodreads: Amber’s life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself. Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets. The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him. And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now—he’s living each moment like it’s his last.
How long did you work on this book?
I drafted THE DAY BEFORE fairly quickly - I think I had a first draft done in a couple of months. Some books come out quickly, for whatever reason, and others like to take their own sweet time. This one was pretty easy to write, which was really nice.

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
Well, before THE DAY BEFORE, I had 3 other YA novels published, along with a middle grade novel. My first YA novel was published in January, 2008 (I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME). Prior to writing that novel, I had written four other novels that were rejected many times over the course of a few years. I don't know how many rejections - close to a hundred, probably. I think of those early novels as my schooling, since I didn't go to school to learn how to be a writer. It took lots of writing and lots of reading to figure out what I was doing and where I sort of "fit" as a writer.

This one was read by editors at my publisher (Simon Pulse) after I finished it, and they decided fairly quickly they wanted to buy it. I was so glad, since prior to this book, I had gotten a couple of rejections on proposals. So even after having published books, rejections do still happen. I'm glad it worked out the way it did, though. I think THE DAY BEFORE turned out better than those other projects would have.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Play. Have fun. Explore. You don't always know what your strengths and talents are right away, so try different things and see how it goes. Sometimes people write to me, struggling with writer's block because they are paralyzed by what other people might think of their writing. The first draft is for no one else but yourself. Write the story because you want to find out what happens. So have fun with it. I have a jar of buttons by my computer from my grandma. I used to love playing with her buttons when I was little. They remind me to not lose that playfulness when it comes to my writing.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
The letters from readers. I didn't think I'd be the kind of author who got fan mail. I thought only big-named authors like Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary got mail. But wow, both teens and kids write to me, depending on what book they've read of mine, and it's so awesome. I love it.

Sharks & Boys by Kristen Tracy
  • From Goodreads: When 15-year-old Enid Calhoun follows her boyfriend Wick to Maryland for a party, fearful that he might be intending to cheat on her, she finds herself sneaking on board a houseboat where Wick and his friends plan to have a wild night. But before the boys discover their stowaway, a hurricane strikes, and the teenagers are carried miles from the shore and shipwrecked. What follows is a harrowing, yet heartwarming, story of survival, as the teens battle hypothermia, dehydration, man-eating sharks--and along the way, confront their own deepest secrets, including their catalytic roles in the disaster.
How long did you work on this book?
I wrote the first draft of SHARKS & BOYS in 2007. I've been working on it ever since. On and off. And reading about nautical disasters. And sharks. And more sharks. And additional sharks. Also, I watched a fair amount of Shark Week. Chomp!

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
SHARKS & BOYS is my fourth teen novel, and if I include my middle-grade novels with Random House, it's my seventh novel. So the road to publish SHARKS & BOYS wasn't long. But that initial road of writing the first book (LOST IT) and finding an agent and finding the right editor took years. I studied writing too. I have an MFA in poetry and a Ph.D. in English. So that took time also. I sought the academic road to becoming a writer. And it worked for me. And yes, there was lots of rejection along the way. Lots and lots. Lots. Really, there was quite a bit.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Write the book you want to read. Create stories that allow you to pursue your own curiosities. Don't worry about the publishing process. Focus on the writing process. I teach writing classes with my friend Nina LaCour in San Francisco. I think studying craft is essential. (If you're curious about the classes visit www.writeteen.com)

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
I get tired of wearing my pajamas.

Fins Are Forever by Tera Lynn Childs
  • From Goodreads: On Lily Sanderson’s eighteenth birthday she’ll become just a girl—still a mergirl, true, but signing the renunciation will ink Princess Waterlily of Thalassinia out of existence. That leaves plain old Lily living on land, dating the boy she loves, and trying to master this being-human thing once and for all. Now that Lily and Quince are together, mer bond or not, she’s almost content to give up her place in the royal succession of Thalassinia. But just when she thinks she has everything figured out, the waves start to get rough. Lily’s father sends a certain whirlpool-stirring cousin to stay with her on land. What did Doe do to get herself exiled from Thalassinia and stuck in terraped form when everyone knows how much she hates humans? And why why why is she batting her eyelashes at Lily’s former crush, Brody? The seafoam on the raging surf comes when a merboy from Lily’s past shows up—Tellin asks Lily for something that clouds her view of the horizon. There’s a future with Quince on land, her loyalty to the kingdom in the sea, and Lily tossing on the waves in the middle. Will she find a way to reconcile her love, her duty, and her own dreams?
How long did you work on this book?
I usually give myself about 6-8 weeks to write the first draft of a book. I can write faster than that, but that's a comfortable time frame. And I start writing more and more the closer I get to the deadline. Then, after my editor has had a chance to read it, I go through revisions. Depending on how much I need to fix that can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months. There are a few more steps along the way (line edits, copyedits, page proofs) but altogether I probably spend 3-4 months on a book, spread out over 6 months to a year.

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
In the grand scheme of things, my road to publication was pretty short. I started writing seriously in late 2002 or early 2003. I found my agent (after dozens of rejections) in October 2005. Then, after several months of rejections, we finally sold Oh. My. Gods. to my editor in July 2006. From then it took two years for the book to be out in bookstores.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Never give up. The most important trait a write can have is persistence. Start writing. Finish a book. Revise it, query it, and move on to the next project. I sold the fourth book I wrote and the first will probably never see the light of day. But you have to keep looking ahead because you become a better writer with every book, you learn and grow and challenge yourself and eventually you will have the right project at the right time. It might take months or years or even decades, but believe in yourself and keep going.

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
How little things change. When you're unpublished, you have these milestone goals. If I just finish a book... If I just final in a contest... If I just get an agent... If I just get a publisher... Then everything will be okay and on the right track. But there are still milestones on the other side of the contract. If I just get a good review, a starred review, another contract, more marketing push, a bestseller list... The entire career is a ladder and there is always another rung to climb. As some point you just have to accept that there will always be something more to strive for, another goal just out of reach. That's what keeps us motivated and pushing ourselves harder as writers.


Luminous by Dawn Metcalf
  • From Goodreads: As reality slips and time stands still, Consuela finds herself thrust into the world of the Flow. Removed from all she loves into this shifting world overlapping our own, Consuela quickly discovers she has the power to step out of her earthly skin and cloak herself in new ones-skins made from the world around her, crafted from water, fire, air. She is joined by other teens with extraordinary abilities, bound together to safeguard a world they can affect, but where they no longer belong. When murder threatens to undo the Flow, the Watcher charges Consuela and elusive, attractive V to stop the killer. But the psychopath who threatens her new world may also hold the only key to Consuela's way home.

How long did you work on this book?
The book itself took 6 months to write...that's the first draft. But with feedback, revisions, delays, being bumped twice, and other sundry details, it took almost 3 years. The offer was made in January, 2008 and Luminous hits the shelves June 30, 2011. I hate math, but I obsessed over this one! Would-be writers be aware: publishing moves at the speed of plate tectonics. I think it has something to do with yetis.

How was your journey to publication? Long, short, how many rejections?
As I mentioned above, the manuscript itself was snapped up pretty quickly...actually VERY quickly as I got the offer on a partial manuscript, meaning that I wasn't even done writing it yet! But that was the fourth manuscript this editor had asked about, the other three were "good, but not a good first book" (silly me for writing them out of order!) but what that really meant was that I had to grow as a writer before I had something worthy to stand out on the shelves. From my first foray into the Children's Literature world to getting an offer was roughly 15 months with lots of stock rejections for my attempts at picture books, polite rejections for my attempts at middle grade, and some real interest (i.e. personal rejections and inquiries) in my attempts at young adult. It's tough to call how "long" or "short" this was since I started writing full-length novels in 1985 but never submitted anything to anyone until 2005, starting with those picture books. So either it's been a very long or very short journey. Truth be told, if you ask any author and it always FEELS like it's been forever! Patience is a virtue and, in an author's case, a must!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Keep writing. While you're busy researching that big project, keep writing. While you're waiting for feedback from your critique partners, keep writing. While your manuscript simmers in a drawer to think about what it's done, keep writing. While you wait on query letters, keep writing. After you do your Happy Dance with an offer in hand, keep writing. While you wait for edits, keep writing. While you do your promotion or develop an online presence, keep writing. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing! Do you sense a pattern? Writers write. Patient people wait. And dreamers gaze up at the sky and wonder "What if...?" The key to being a successful writer is balancing all three of these things, but your career depends on your ability to do the first one best of all!

What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
A lot has surprised me. The best surprise has been how incredibly supportive the kid lit community is. I'm not exaggerating that there are so many professional, big-name people who are willing to Pay It Forward with helpful blogs, websites, chats, exchange of emails, invites to connect and even long, meandering phone and Skype calls, it's mind-boggling. I am so grateful to these people--editors, agents, authors and teachers--it would be impossible to name them all (although I do have a long list up on my website for gushing and linking)! But the most startling discovery was that I was supposed to have an "online presence". This part of the being a published author never occurred to me. I thought my job was to sit and write books! I had a crash course learning about blogs and Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, LibraryThing and Shelfari and Goodreads and all sorts of platform-building stuff when I discovered was all I really wanted to do was connect with people who loved writing, reading, genre and ranting about gender and diversity as much as I do. When I found those threads, the rest became addictively easy. (I know "addictively" isn't a word. But it should be!) If you surf the web in any capacity, you know what I mean!

Additional Releases
Withering Tights (Misadventures of Tallulah Casey) by Louise Rennison
  • From Goodreads: Wow. This is it. This is me growing up. On my own, going to Performing Arts College. This is good-bye, Tallulah, you long, gangly thing, and hellooooo, Lullah, star of stage. Tallulah Casey is ready to find her inner artist. And some new mates. And maybe a boy or two or three. The ticket to achieving these lofty goals? Enrolling in a summer performing arts program, of course. She's bound for the wilds of Yorkshire Dales—eerily similar to the windswept moors of Wuthering Heights. Tallulah expects new friends, less parental interference, and lots of drama. Acting? Tights? Moors? Check, check, check. What she doesn't expect is feeling like a tiny bat's barging around in her mouth when she has her first snog.

Unfriended: A Top 8 Novel by Katie Finn
  • From Goodreads: Madison MacDonald is glad things are back to normal! Madison It’s SUMMER at last -- let the good times & pool parties roll! Location: Putnam Beach. Putnam, CT. Madison My friends are all together again, and Nate and I are better than ever. Finally, everything in my life is working out. :) Location: Gofer Ice Cream. Putnam, CT. Madison Even though Nate will be leaving for college in the fall. Location: New Canaan Drive-In. New Canaan, CT. Madison And there’s a piece of me that’s still waiting for the other shoe to drop from the prom heist. Location: Stubbs Coffee. Putnam, CT. Madison But everything is going to be fine! Right? Location: On A Blender Smoothie Shop. Putnam, CT. Madison Oh. Maybe I should take that back -- Location: Undisclosed THIS ACCOUNT HAS BEEN TEMPORARILY DISABLED. Madison MacDonald thinks the other shoe just dropped.
Giveaway

Here goes! Thanks to kind authors and publishing houses, we're happy to announce giveaways of WITHERING TIGHTS, SHARKS & BOYS, and 5 signed bookmarks courtesy of Dawn Metcalf for her book LUMINOUS. The AMAZING Dawn Ryan at Simon & Schuster is offering 3 copies of Lisa Schroeder's THE DAY BEFORE along with 3 copies of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES!!! Please leave a comment on this post and fill out the form below to enter! The contest is open to US residents and winners will be announced this Thursday.

Happy reading,
The Ladies of ACP


Saturday, June 25, 2011

0 1st 5 Pages Workshop -- Final June Revisions Are Up!

The final revisions by this month's workshop participants are posted below. Please give them a round of applause and help them out by commenting on their work so far.

Have your own work in progress? We'll be starting another workshop next weekend with a special guest critiquer. The rules are posted here, so get your work ready!

Happy critiquing,

Martina and Lisa

8 1st 5 Pages Workshop - June Entry #1, Rev 3

A DIFFERENT WINTER
Contemporary YA
by Sandra Cormier

Chapter 1
Mallorca - 1974

They'd hardly arrived in Mallorca, and Rebecca's parents were already arguing in the bedroom. Dad's low voice intersected Mom's shrill protests. Somewhere in the mix Rebecca heard, "New start," and "Time to think.”

"I sure hope the neighbors don't understand English," her sister Lori remarked with a smirk as she curled on the sofa with an airplane magazine.

Michael seemed oblivious to the tension as he rummaged through his father's suit pockets, probably looking for foreign coins to hoard.

Rebecca skirted the mound of suitcases in the living room, opened the balcony door and stepped into the heat. Flamenco music filtered from somewhere below, almost obliterated by the hiss of sand pulled to sea by the surf. The classical notes crept into her psyche with exotic sweetness. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the sounds, if only to drown out her parents.

Dad finally came outside and leaned against the balcony railing. As usual, he hid his impatience behind a serene expression and a freshly lit cigarette.

Inside, the sound of colliding dishes punctuated Mom's side of the argument. She wore her emotions on the outside and dishwashing was always a clear indication of her mood. When she was in good spirits, she sang above the gentle clink of cutlery against crockery. When she was pissed off, plates crashed together like cymbals.

Dad squinted against the reflected sunlight and took a drag on his cigarette. He rubbed his chin with a knuckle and cocked his head at the door. "Don’t worry, she'll get used to this. She always does." He leaned an elbow on the railing and pointed south, over the expanse of Mediterranean. "Algeria is that way. See, it's not far. I'll be back for a visit before you know it."

Rebecca tilted her chin, straining to see. But it was too far, beyond the horizon. "You've been here a whole month - why can't you stay a few days more? We just got here."

He gathered her in the crook of his arm and drew her close. His shirt smelled of Old Spice and menthol tobacco - like home. His deep voice rumbled against her cheek as he assured her, "It'll be good for you to have new experiences."

Behind Rebecca, Mom's strangled tirade escalated until she started to sound like Yosemite Sam. Rebecca flinched and swallowed hard. "I was just getting to know everyone in high school." She wasn't, not really – but when did he ever clue into that?

Dad backed away and gave her shoulder a perfunctory rub, as if it would erase all the animosity that had built up since he'd announced he took this job. He motioned toward the deep blue Mediterranean with his cigarette. "Look at this place. A winter without snow for once – it'll be fantastic."

The glass door slid open again. Rebecca turned to see her mother standing in the doorway. Mom glared at Dad's shoulder blades, while he seemed engrossed in the curl of blue smoke that drifted from his Export A.

Mom rubbed her eyes and huffed in that way she always did when she'd lost an argument. "By the way, thanks for leaving me with a sink full of dirty dishes and no food in the fridge. I'm not surprised; you're a typical man, aren't you?"

When he didn't respond, she prodded, "Will you at least stay long enough to help me shop for dinner?" She folded her arms and frowned.
"Frank?"

Dad stiffened and stubbed out his cigarette on the balcony railing.
He made as if to slide past Mom, but stopped to give her a brief peck on her pale cheek. "Sorry, Val – uh, Dear. You know my plane leaves in an hour. If you need any help getting around, I wrote Mrs.
Shepard's number beside the phone."

Mom's eyes flared. "And who is this Mrs. Shepard?"

Dad blinked and took a deep breath. "You probably don't remember." He waited, but Mom's flushed face and shifting glance indicated she didn't. "She's Alan's wife," he said gently, as if she needed everything spelled out for her. "She lives next door." He turned to Rebecca, his expression softening. "Their kids will be going to your school. Maybe you could be friends."

Making friends wasn't as simple as being the same age and living in the same building. Rebecca lifted her hand in farewell but didn't say a word. She was afraid if she hugged him again, she'd close her arms around him and refuse to let go.

After a series of urgent murmurs from the entranceway, the front door closed with a muffled slam. A moment later, Michael came outside and stood on tiptoe to peek over the railing.

"Far out; a pool! I bet we could dive right off from here," he exclaimed, lifting one leg. He glanced at her with a wicked grin.

"Try it and you're dead, stupid," she replied. "We're three floors up."

"But that's the deep end."

"You could still hurt yourself. Don't even think about it." She rested her elbows on the railing and stared out to sea, imagining the North African coast with its whitewashed mosques and minarets and sand, and Bedouins with swirling robes. Dad was going to have the best time ever and she wished she could be with him.

She wondered if Bedouins still kidnapped Western girls and sold them into harems. It would be exciting to ride across the desert, live in tents and be rescued by some handsome guy with long hair like in Mom's romance novels.

Now those books were packed in a cardboard box in their basement along with winter clothes and knick-knacks they didn't want broken while Dad rented out the house - the first one they'd owned after a lifetime of rentals. It seemed their lives revolved around boxes, even when the boxes went nowhere.

They'd even had to give away their dog. That was the hardest part.

She took a deep whiff of fresh salty air, so unlike the sulfuric odour that permeated Saint John, their port city back home. Instead of peering through curtains of fog that inevitably rolled across the Bay of Fundy, this body of water displayed a bright haziness interspersed with sparkles.

She shaded her eyes and watched a group of young men jogging along the water's edge. The boys matched each other both in step and attire. Their white t-shirts and navy blue shorts stuck to their bodies as if glued by sea spray or perspiration.

A muscular black man trailed the group. A whistle dangled from his thick neck and he brought it to his lips. The rush of the surf almost drowned the blast of the whistle, but the boys picked up their pace as the man cheerfully urged them on.

"Come on, you wimps!" he shouted, his white teeth flashing hugely as he grinned. "Pick it up! This ain't no prep school!"

"They must be from our school," Michael said.

One of the uniformed boys caught Rebecca's attention. Lean and fair, he towered head and shoulders over most of the others. His flushed cheeks contrasted with his ivory face, and golden curls clung damply to his sunburned neck. He led the pack, striding gracefully.

She felt her stomach flip at the sight. Wiry muscles showed through his damp shirt. He's beautiful.

Chapter Two

When she wandered back into the apartment, her mother was stuffing peseta notes into her purse. "Well, we don’t eat until I go shopping." She checked for keys and headed to the door, muttering, "I hope to God this is enough money. How am I going to ask for anything?
I don't know Spanish. Your father knows Spanish. Jesus; I'm tired. I need a drink." She stood in the small entryway, hands on her hips and her purse swinging from her wrist. "Well, come on. Let's go."

Michael scrambled to accompany her, and Lori heaved herself out of the sofa. "Groovy," she muttered.

Rebecca pretended she didn't hear.

"Becky? Come on."

"I'm not a little kid, Mom. I can take care of myself." Rebecca glanced back at the balcony, wondering when the boys would jog back from the direction they'd come.

Lori sat down again. "I'm the oldest. If anyone should stay home, it's me."

"Not today, you're not. I'll need your help carrying stuff. We're walking."

As her mother headed for the door, Lori asked, "Why can't we drive?
Aren't you going to call Mrs. Shepard? Maybe she knows where the closest store is."

Mom looked at the phone and shook her head. "Let's wing it." She would rather get lost in a foreign country than phone a person she didn't know.

"Speaking of winging it," Michael said undisguised glee, "Lori's not wearing a bra."

Mom's face blanched, then reddened. "What?"

"She's not wearing a bra." Michael cupped his hands under his chest and did a grotesque dance. "She looks like Linda Ronstadt."

Mom cuffed him on the back of his head. "Where do you get that stuff?" She turned to Lori and raised a hand as if to strike her, too.

Lori straightened and stared her mother down. The palpable silence between them made Rebecca want to clap her hands over her ears and run from the room.

Instead, she remarked coolly despite her racing heart, "I'll bet David Bowie wears a bra. He wears enough makeup."

Her mother swung her gaze toward Rebecca and lowered her hand. Her lip twitched. "What am I going to do with you kids?"

7 1st 5 Pages Workshop - June Entry #2, Rev 3

Feliza David - YA Mystery

This wasn't good. Not from any angle.

An ambulance and a police car huddled nose to nose, like they were sharing secrets. They sat together in the otherwise vacant parking lot, both pitching blue and cherry lights that bounced over the glass-fronted swimming complex facing the lot.

I caught the scene as I rolled down the street. My laptop had bricked out two days ago and I'd come to school early to snag a computer at the library.

The multi-colored lights shined a warning as clear as the morning sunshine, but I kept moving forward, like a mosquito drawn into the cool sizzle of a bug zapper.

Soon enough, the distance between me and the school parking lot had disappeared, and I was rolling to a stop just inside the main entrance.

I don't know how long I waited, holding my breath and hoping this was all just a false alarm.

When the doors to the swimming complex swung open, the dread that had knotted inside my chest turned sharp. Two paramedics stepped out of the swimming complex wheeling a lumpy, sheet-covered gurney. Something black and lacy dribbled out from one side, like an oil slick.

I should be crying, I thought.

It felt wrong to sit here, dry-eyed and quiet, like this was something happening on TV instead of a real corpse in front of me. Maybe my hysteria would show up later, after I persuaded my throat to unclench and my lungs to pull in more than a gasp of fresh air.

Another thought flickered into my mind… I should get up and help.

But with what?

I was pondering the very limited possibilities when I registered a dark uniform and the shiny wink of a badge--Officer Ryan, still looking almost too young to be sporting a holstered weapon. He was an old friend, of sorts, from some trouble last semester.

I noticed him at the same time he noticed me.

The greeting we exchanged was a quick lock of our eyes. Not like I expected more. For some reason, though, the brevity of it doubled the coldness gnawing at my insides.

The paramedics loaded up the gurney, huffing as they lifted its bulk into their ambulance. Even though I was expecting it, the sounds of their slamming doors made me jump.

Officer Ryan and I watched them drive away. When the ambulance had disappeared around the corner, he turned to me.

Go home, said his expression. I could imagine the sentiment in buzzing blue neon, the same color as his eyes. He didn't need to open his mouth.

I had revved up my scooter to do just that, when something caught my eye.

Someone stood just inside the still-open doors to the pool complex. After a moment of squinting, I recognized Coach Laughlin.

I shivered as I imagined him driving to work, sipping some coffee and humming along with the radio.

Parking his car.

Then walking into school and finding someone dead.

If I stared at the coach for a second longer, I'd be able to make out his expression. And if I did that, maybe something really would come crashing down inside me.

So I gunned my engine and zipped away, like a scared bunny who'd been paralyzed with fear, but had finally gotten her speed back.

#

The district gave us Friday off, and the weekend rolled in after that. The whole thing was kind of like an unexpected snow holiday, but with less sledding and more tearful memorials. When Monday came around, Augustine High was back in session.

I came in late. Not on purpose, as far as I know, although so far my track record with coming into school early didn't bode well.

In first-period Journalism, we kicked things off in the usual way: a round-table meeting with Samantha Curtis, the student editor.

Today, Samantha looked neatly pressed as always, her blonde hair as sleek and straight as a ruler, but her voice was missing its usual crisp cadence.

"So, we don't have a new edition for this week. You know, obviously." She sighed. "I'm going to try to get the memorial edition out soon. For now, I guess we're supposed to keep working on things and..." She frowned at her PDA. "Ian says he's got the flu and he can't cover the girls' basketball game tonight. Any takers?"

No thanks. Suddenly, I felt a surge of concern for the state of my cuticles. I could live without a two-hour bus ride and, from the hush in the room, it looked like everyone else could, too.

Samantha sighed. "Come on, guys. Anybody? Bueller?"

"Why don't you just give it to Prudence?" said Lauren King.

“Mallory,” I corrected. My plan to ditch my old, boring name for my more-presentable last name had been about as successful as my mother's advice to ‘just be yourself.’ Even after a year in Augustine, I still hadn't convinced anyone to call me by my last name.

“Yeah, whatever.” Lauren shrugged, her curly hair bobbing. "I mean, you've got like, one article this week. No offense or anything."

"None taken," I said. It was no secret that, these days, most of the staff thought I was a roving reporter who didn't rove very far.

To my surprise, Samantha rescued me. "Chris can do it. I've got Prudence on another project this week." She caught my eye for a slip of a second before looking back at her phone.

A few months ago, Samantha had given me the job as Dear Audrey, the paper's anonymous advice columnist, for two reasons: first, because she was too swamped to do it herself anymore; and, second, because it was the most thankless job on staff.

I also liked to think that my air of gravitas had something to do with it.

Or not.

I spent the rest of the period transcribing quotes from my voice recorder about last week's bake sale for Haiti. My Dear Audrey inbox was filled to the brim, but that was strictly an off-hours job.

A little while later, the bell rang early so everyone could pile into the practice gym for a special assembly. Something about "school safety" and "coming together." At least that's what they'd told us in the email.

According to the news, Anna Levine had drowned early last Thursday morning when her old-fashioned goth skirt sucked her down to the bottom of the pool. My guess was she had died not too long before I had arrived. An hour, maybe two. If I thought about it for too long, my stomach started to ache.

But I could handle an assembly--they were formal and impersonal, a bunch of adults talking at you over a loudspeaker. However, I had skipped last week's on-campus, candle-lit vigil, opting to stay at home and pretend like I didn't feel guilty about it. That was easier than barging into a memorial for a girl I had barely known, like I was actually a part of Augustine, in whatever limited way. The big freeze-out from Samantha and pretty much everybody else at school made it clear that I wasn't.

Still, as I followed the rest of the newspaper staff out of the room, a little knot tightened in my chest. Maybe I should have gone to the vigil with Mom. She told me it was beautiful. Flowers, candles, crying.

I hadn't been friends with Anna, but I had known her in a roundabout fashion. A few times, I had seen her in the library during lunch, both of us dining at tables for one.

6 1st 5 Pages Workshop - June Entry #3, Rev 3

Kate Larkindale - Young Adult

CHAPTER 1
LUCY

The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. Teetering on the edge of consciousness, wavy grey lines waft across the blank space before my eyes. I struggle to keep my wits about me - what’s left of them - fighting the darkness threatening to drown me.
Certain now I won’t pass out, I gasp for breath. There’s nothing covering my face. It was the ground my nose and mouth were pressed into.

The ground? Wet. Greasy. Reeking of something that reminds me of… gas? Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto.
My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fist around them.
Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.

Using my torn hand, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. I
can’t move my legs, can’t even feel them. Raising my head, I see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do. My heart thumps at the side of my head and I can almost hear the gears of my brain creaking to make sense of this weird red glow.

A taillight.

I let my throbbing head drop as a reward, a surge of relief passing through me at this small achievement. It’s a taillight. But why is it there? What is there? And if that’s there, where am I? The questions whirl dizzying circles around my skull. My eyes fix on the taillight, broken I realize, staring into it as if hypnotized. That’s why it’s brighter at one end.

More light. White this time, sweeping in an arc across me. I blink, dazzled by the flood of brightness. All around me I see fragments glinting in the beam, tiny jewels strewn across the road. The yellow line is inches from my nose. Why am I lying in the middle of the road? Ghostly music drifts in my direction. A song I know, an oldie, The Beach Boys. It makes no sense here, must be in my head. I try to drag my other arm forward, wanting to raise myself onto my elbows for a better perspective. It won’t move. Pain rocks through my shoulder, my chest and courses up my neck to my still-aching head. The heavy, metallic scent of blood hangs over me. When I glance back down, I see the yellow line is smeared red.

The slamming of a car door breaks through the dull thumping in my skull, chases the music away for a moment. Footsteps scuff across the gravel, heading away from where I lie.
“I’m here!” I can’t tell if I’ve spoken aloud, or if the words are just in my head, like the unearthly jaunt of the Beach Boys song.
“Help me.”
The footsteps grow nearer. “There’s another one over here.” The voice is a woman’s. Another what? I try to form the words, but my tongue is heavy and thick, my lips uncooperative.

A face hovers over me, pale and moon-like in the unforgiving glare.
“This one’s conscious, I think.” The same voice as before. She leans closer, coffee and cigarettes on her breath. “Honey? Can you tell me your name? You’ve been in an accident, but you’re going to be just fine, okay?”
An accident? The cogs and wheels in my head speed up again, grinding together as they try to absorb the words.
“Mom?” The word is painful to form, “Dad?” Somehow I know they’ll be there.
“Is that who you’re with?” The voice is gentle, soothing even, but I sense the urgency in her tone, “Your mom and dad?”
I try to nod, not sure if my head moves or not. I’ve been in an
accident. That’s what she said. Does that mean Mom and Dad were in an accident too? Where was I before here?
“…Okay?” I ask, only the last part of the phrase making it out of my mush-filled mouth. Are they okay? That’s what I wanted to ask. Are they here? My parents? Are they okay?

The words build to a scream behind my forehead, hammering the bone with the need to escape. I’m aware of the woman’s hands coming down to hold my shoulders and realize I’m writhing on the cold blacktop, every movement awakening new hurt. A shriek rises and falls in the distance, growing nearer whoop by whoop. It’s in my head, extinguishing any music that lingers there. It stops abruptly, as if a switch has been flicked. Seconds later, flashing lights, red, white, blue, replace the sound.

Voices surround me. They’re all talking at once, the words swirling into a dull cacophony. I let myself drift in spirals on the rise and fall of their voices, the steady thud of my heartbeat an underlying rhythm to their song.

“Sweetheart?” The voice by my ear startles me. “What’s your name?
Do you know your name?”
Do I know my name? Of course I know my name. I’m not an idiot. “Lucy…”
“Okay, Lucy.” The man’s voice is soft, yet firm at the same time.
It’s a voice I can trust. A safe voice. I can’t see who’s speaking though. A white beam shines right into my eyes and he’s nothing more than a silhouette against it. “Do you feel any pain, Lucy?”
I nod again, still not sure if my head moves or not.
“Can you tell me where it hurts?”
I shake my head this time. Everything hurts. Those wavy gray lines dance across my vision again. His shadowy figure appears to melt into the darkness for a moment, then comes back into focus.
“Mom?” I ask again, certain she’s around somewhere. “Dad?” My parents must be here. We were at a wedding. Adam DeMarco’s. The grinding cogs in my skull work overtime as I try to make sense of it.
Adam DeMarco? I haven’t seen the guy since I was about eight. He was Tony’s friend. Sort of friend. Those early childhood friendships based more on who your parents choose to spend time with than any personal selection process. But Tony wasn’t there was he?

I struggle to remember. My eyes rake the ground before me, dazzled by light playing on glass. I blink. No. Tony wasn’t there. Of course not. He’s at college. Diving. Miles away. I doubt Adam missed him.
He’s older than Tony, but not that much. A couple of years, maybe.
Young to be getting married at twenty-two. Must’ve knocked the girl up…

“…We’re going to move you, Lucy.” The voice shatters my unfocused train of thought, bringing me back to the slick tarmac, damp beneath me. “Let me know if it hurts, okay?”

“‘Kay” The word sounds like slush coming out of my mouth. Worse than Mom’s mush-mouth after too much chardonnay. Someone lifts my head, wrapping something soft and firm around my neck. I remember the tightness in my lungs before, the struggle to draw breath. Panic rises in my throat, hot and poisonous. My breath quickens and I hear a strange gasping sound, a repetitive “nononononononono” coming from somewhere very close by.